Viral Instagram artist Sophie Tea (@sophieteaart) opened her very first art shop in London and she's just getting bigger and better. Located around Carnaby Street, you literally can't miss it - it's bright pink. Sophie has made her name by selling thousands of paintings online via Instagram, shunning the traditional methods of an art gallery. It's reported that she turned over 1m in the last year alone and she is determined to make art accessible for all - offering unique interest-free payment plans for people who are desperate for art but might not be able to afford it. Well known for animals and vibrant abstract works, she has recently created nude paintings to celebrate and empower body diversity. Her work also extends to abstract hearts with hidden messages. She shares every step of her journey with her 196k followers who love watching her work. Currently, at her art shop in Australia, we spoke to Sophie about her Carnaby Street store, and why she loves pink so much...
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Hi Sophie, your path to success has been crazy - and amazing - what’s been your highlight?
"Well, that's so flattering! It's been a series of green lights lately, a stark comparison to the first few years of 'art-life'. A highlight would have to be launching a Sydney and Carnaby Street, London store this year; both bright pink of course!"
Do people stop you on the street now you’re a bonafide Instagram star?
"Haha, oh god no definitely not! Although I know it's only a matter of time because quite literally every single person I meet I tell them to follow me on Instagram and they get an ear-full about how much I love art. I'm that girl."
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You have probably done lots of celebrity commissions, but was there anyone you were star struck by?
"Yes, I've seen a lot of nude celebrities, but my mouth remains closed at the one that I was extremely gobsmacked over!"
Which celebrity would you love to see your pieces in their house?
"I really admire Lady Gaga, so that would be an honour."
How did lockdown affect your business? More and more people were scrolling on Instagram through boredom and people were at home staring at their bare walls in their homes - did that lead to a crazy demand?
"The lockdown did lead to an unprecedented demand. We had our best month ever in March, then doubled it in April. To be honest it's why I pressed go on our stores. I recognise how I have been extremely lucky to be a small business that was able to stay afloat during these crazy times. It could have so easily gone the other way, but as a founder, I thrive in uncertainty. I used lockdown as an opportunity to create my work, and a lot of it!!"
You have a love for pink - where did that come from?
"I'm playing on the irony of what it means to be a girl. I'm living for the empowered woman in these modern times. Girls get paid. Girls speak out. Girls are sex-positive. Girls do what the hell they want to do. So yes, I'll own the colour pink because I'm proud to be a girl."
What’s your top tip for anyone who would like to invest in their art collection - do you have any top tips on where to start
"My top tip for investing in art would be to simply make sure that you LOVE it! There is zero point investing to later on-sell if you don't like looking at it every day, how boring! My second tip would be to buy to celebrate! Whether you're graduating or getting a promotion, getting through a tough time or saying no. Make sure the artwork represents something personal to you. It can act like a time capsule to remind you of what a legend you are."
You have a series on Instagram for art therapy - have you had lots of lovely feedback for that?
"My art therapies on Instagram @sophieteaart have been a hit! Time-Lapse videos of painting really are so calming to watch. This is so sad but I am even obsessed with them, I enjoy reflecting on what decisions I've made with compositions or colours or brushstrokes. I use them like a scrapbook myself to see how my technique is evolving."
Sophie at the launch party of her new London store
You seem like you have lots of ideas and not enough time... you never stop! How do you relax?
"How do I relax?! Good question. This is a work in progress for me, and something that I must invest in for my mental health. I am honestly constantly buzzing about how I can push harder and get bigger. Every waking hour is consumed with excitement around art. Then after around 15 days of work I crash. Hard. I've just moved into an amazing place with this jacuzzi bath that overlooks the ocean, my aim is to get in it every night, WITHOUT my phone. I'll let you know!"
Now let’s talk about the pink Sophie Tea art gallery - how did that come about and what was the ultimate goal?
"It was always the plan to launch a gallery that was inclusive for anyone that wants to come in! The thing I love the most about my work is making artwork accessible to all. You don't have to have money to be able to enjoy a Sophie Tea original. My huge Carnaby street store is to eradicate elitism in our little art world. Our store is open 7 days a week, the music is blasting, there is a naked nudie booth, and loads of sofas for you to sit and enjoy the artwork for as long as you want!! Meeting our beautiful customers and hearing their stories in-store is the best!"
The art world can seem pretty snobbish, but you’re anything but! Do you love that you’ve given a different version of ‘I collect art’
"Posing question like that means I'm doing something right! Our aim at Sophie Tea is to make buying original artwork accessible. We allow all of our customers to pay in instalments over 12 months. All you have to do is pay a small deposit usually around £100 and you get the artwork right away. 90%+ of our orders use this method and it's the best idea I ever had to offer payment in this way. I collect art, YES YOU DO!"
You have a presence in Australia and London, where’s your next dream destination?
"Los Angeles. Next is setting up a gallery on Melrose. You heard it here first!"
If someone is thinking of visiting the london exhibition - what can they expect?
"To walk out feeling a hell of a lot nicer about yourself. I'd also go as far to say it's one of the most Instagramable venues in London. If you manage to visit then make sure you tag me in absolutely everything because nothing makes me happier than seeing you enjoying my creations!"
What’s one pink thing everyone should own in their life?
"I mean if I didn't give my own artwork a plug on this platform I'd be stupid. The pink thing that everyone should own is an original piece of Sophie Tea Art."
Visit the Sophie Tea shop at 10 Carnaby Stree, Carnaby, W1. You can also se more of Sophie's heart collection which is on display at ME by Melia (located on the Strand in London). On Saturday 21 August, Sophie is holding a 'WOMEN' catwalk event at the Waldorf Hilton Hotel. Fifty 'nudies' will be walking the catwalk and it'll be Sophie's final 'Nude' collection. The dress code is GO ALL OUT. Tickets available via eventbrite.
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